Sunday, 11 September 2011

TIFF 2011: Day 3 - Saturday September 10, 2011

Day 3 of the festival was actually my first day attending and what a hell of a way to start things off with a intense Indonesian martial arts film The Raid starring Iko Uwais. Wow. I know it's early in the festival to say it, but I can easily imagine it The Raid being my favourite film of the festival. The afternoon screening was packed with an enthusiastic crowd for the screening as well as a Q&A with director Gareth Huw Evans and actors Iko Uwais & Joe Taslim. During the Q&A there was a giveaway of one of the vests used during actual filming, and what was really cool was that they gave it to the woman who was bold enough to mention that hearing about the choreography was one thing, but seeing it would be better. Proof that asking questions gets results...and you can see a video of the demo here. Thank you question lady! Along with The Raid I also got out to see the Filipino family drama with a magical realism twist Fable of the Fish plus I've also reviewed Ingrid Veninger's i am a good person i am a bad person.

Rather listen than read? Check out my Day 3 Vlog.

The Raid
Dir: Gareth Huw Evans
Cast: Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim, Doni Alamsyah, Yayan Ruhian, Ray Sahetapy

I absolutely adored The Raid. This Indonesian martial arts film was my most anticipated film of the festival, it was the first film I saw at the festival and I imagine it will be my favourite film from TIFF this year. Usually I'd never say that because it's be so tragic to have to step in later and say retract that prediction, but really, I can't imagine anything even coming close. The film follow and SWAT team who are heading into an apartment complex to take down a drug lord Tama (Ray Sahetapy) who is faithfully guarded by Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian) and Andi (Doni Alamsyah). The team is led by focused and determined Jaka (played by Joe Taslim) and includes Rama (played by the formidable martial artist Iko Uwais), who is heavily invested in the mission and exceptionally skilled, but interestingly enough is not in a position of power. But one thing Iko Uwais brings to the screen is power in the absolutely astonishing fights throughout the film which showcase an amazing combination of flexibility, power and grace. The Raid features the martial art of Silat, and in the film we see is lots of kicking and hand-to-hand fighting as well as straight-up throwing people around, all while creatively using the confining environment and spaces. There is also a fair amount of weaponry with the action from knives to guns, but the most exciting action was definitely hand-to-hand. The fight sequences and absolutely phenomenal with high tension and high energy. The fights whether long or short are innovated, interesting, well executed and paired by great sound design giving added depth to each and every moment.

Although the action is clearly the highlight, I loved that the film also had a great story with compelling characters. I didn't always know what would happen next, nor what the characters would do or what their motivations were. That was a welcome surprize for an action flick, and works extremely well especially considering they keep the tension level really high, and you are constantly wondering who, or what, will break next. I loved everything about the film, from the fact that it kept me on my toes to it making me care about the characters. And of course provided the most exciting action sequences I've seen in a long time. The Raid is a truly inspiring film. I was floored by exquisite skills of Iko Uwais and the fantastic and continually creative use of the confined spaces and a great story to boot. Kudos to director Gareth Huw Evans from bringing this intensely entertaining film to life. I can't wait to see what these guys get up to next.

You can see Iko Uwais sharing he's moves during the Q&A for the afternoon audience of the screening of the Midnight Madness film The Raid. I'll have more videos up from the Q&A with The Raid director Gareth Huw Evans and actors Iko Uwais & Joe Taslim soon.

Midnight Madness programmer Colin Geddes with The Raid director Gareth Huw Evans and actors Iko Uwais & Joe Taslim (see more pictures from the screening here)

Fable of the Fish / Isda
Dir: Adolfo Borinaga Alix Jr.
Cast: Cherry Pie Picache, Bembol Roco, Anita Linda, Rosanna Roces, Evelyn Vargas
The Philippines

I knew I was going to see Fable of the Fish / Isda the moment I read the description that it revolves around woman who gives birth to a fish. How surprized was I when during the introduction of the film director Adolfo Borinaga Alix Jr. mentioned that the film is inspired but an actual news story from the 80's. Wow. I like how he, and the film, didn't judge or spend to much focus on the believability factor of the story is self, but rather centred it self on the emotions and human drama of the unusual situation. The film actually plays the story pretty straight forward and really stays with Lina, who plays the mother, and her emotional journey. The audiences is treated to a fantastic performance by Cherry Pie Picache as Lina, whom you can really empathize with and feel her love towards her offspring. This is contrasted by her husband Miguel, (Bembol Roco) who is much less accepting and tries to contain his complex emotions of the situation. The miracle of the situations is contrasted even more as it's set within an extremely poor community, which parallels yet another level of survival, family and community.

Fable of the Fish Director Adolfo Borinaga Alix Jr. (centre) and actress Evelyn Vargas (left)

i am a good person / i am a bad person
Dir: Ingrid Veninger (Only, MODRA)
Cast: Ingrid Veninger, Hallie Switzer

i am a good person / i am a bad person is a shoe in for a pick to see at a film festival because it's uniquely set around a filmmaker taking her film to film festivals with her daughter in tow. Given that directer Ingrid Veninger plays the lead and her daughter Hallie Switzer plays her daughter in the film, you can't help but ponder on how much if anything is autobiographical. But what I love about it is that you think about it from a curiosity perspective but I felt in no way did I need a definitive yes or no on the subject, which is one of the beautifully unique things about Ingrid Veninger films. They bring you in close enough to the characters that you really feel for them plus it makes you think on an emotional level as well as an intellectual level. I've really enjoyed Ingrid Veninger's previous works of Only and MODRA, and I'm happy to i am a good person i am a bad person to the love list with it's beautiful naturalism and quiet emotional intensity. I love how the film can portray the rawness of human emotions without making the audience feel like we've been through the meat grinder, but rather gives us emotional access to the characters through their flaws and fragility. i am a good person / i am a bad person is exactly the type of film that is best seen in a festival environment to fully appreciate the meta-level it exudes. I highly recommend checking it out.

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The Toronto International Film Festival 2011 runs from September 8 - 18, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

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